Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Mother Cottontail Rabbit Can Have 25 Babies Per Year

Eastern Cottontail rabbit nest 20090524 jhansonxi
 © Jhansonxi (via Wikimedia Commons)
I think I was in second grade when I first heard the phrase, "multiplying like rabbits." I thought, "I didn't know rabbits could do math!" I'm pretty sure my mom had to explain what it meant. Anyway, that phrase exists for a reason. A mother cottontail rabbit has four or five babies per litter, and four or five litters per breeding season. If you do your own multiplication, you'll see that comes up to 16 - 25 new baby bunnies every year. Of course, some of those babies will die before they reach adulthood, but enough survive for the population to grow. This can cause problems for farmers and gardeners if there's aren't enough predators in an area to keep the overall numbers of bunnies at stable levels.

According to the History Channel's website, rabbits are a symbol of fertility and new life due to their breeding habits, which could have led to their association with spring, which led to their association with Easter.

Speaking of baby bunnies, if you stumble across a nest and don't see the mother around, don't assume the babies are orphans. Mother rabbits don't stay with the babies 24/7. In fact, they're absent from the nest most of the day, and only feed the babies in the early morning and in the evening. However, if you are CERTAIN the babies are orphaned (for example, if you witnessed your dog or cat killing the mother), do NOT try to raise them yourself. This is a difficult task for a trained wildlife rehabilitator, and an impossible one for somebody without that training. Wild baby bunnies are the most difficult mammals for humans to raise - they have very specific requirements and they succumb easily to stress and infections. Check with your state's Department of Natural Resources for a list of rehabilitators in your area.

Happy Easter/ Passover/ Spring!

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